“Taking care of yourself” does not have to equate with
a “lack of character, responsibility, and commitment.”
A quote I posted this week on my Facebook page (with one of my morning sunrise beach photos) conjured up two memories: one from the classroom and one from a professional meeting.
First, the quote attributed to Eleanor Brownn:
“Self-care is not selfish. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.”
I have read similar words and sentiments over the last two decades. Hal Urban, for instance, speaks of taking ownership of your self-care in Choices that Change Lives. Borrowing from Urban, I often asked my students to draw a line down the center of a piece of paper. On the left side, I asked them to write the five things, people, tasks that they valued the most. On the other side of the page, they wrote the five things, people, tasks that took most of their time each week.
An interesting thing (almost) always happened when the students looked at their two columns:
What they say they valued was not what they did each week.
The conversation went deeper when I asked how many listed themselves in the top five value list. Again, almost no one did. I remember one student, a single mom, saying that she could not put herself in the top five because she had kids to care for. “How can I put myself before my kids?” she asked.
Good point. Her children represented non-negotiables in her life. No question about that. And they need their mother (father). So, I questioned, “If you don’t take care of yourself and you get sick or end up in the hospital or die, what happens to your children?” In other words, the vessel (using Brownn’s word above) needs to be replenished if it is to continue to sustain others. It does not denigrate the children’s value. It recognizes the importance of the caregiver in the equation.
One of my first posts on this blog dealt with the same issue of self-care. At the time I had spoken to a professional group. I conducted the same Value-Time activity. It was followed by an interesting email exchange with one of the audience members. That person called me out on the self-care issue saying it lacked character and integrity for someone to “bail” on their responsibilities. Here is a little of that exchange:
This audience member wrote to me: “I believe what bothers me is the ‘taking care of me.’ This ‘taking care of yourself’ philosophy is being interpreted into ‘It is totally ok for you to be selfish at whatever costs.’ We make choices in life. Choices to have a family. Choices to own a home. Choices to work outside the home. Choices to strive for a particular income level. All these choices come with it responsibility of time and demands on oneself. To bail on any of it because ‘you deserve to take care of yourself’ shows lack of character and responsibility and commitment to something you made a choice to do.”
Again, good points. But I do not believe that “taking care of yourself” has to equate with a “lack of character, responsibility, and commitment.” [It seemed then—as well as today—to be a false equivalency.]
What I am suggesting is that we take care of ourselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I am NOT saying we should shirk responsibilities because I deserve “it” (whatever “it” may be). Yes, we do make choices—and we must live with those choices.
We all have a lot of stuff to take care of each day. A problem can present itself if we keep putting off the stuff that addresses our own health and wellbeing. And that could have an impact on the health and wellbeing of others in our families and in our communities.
At times, our old nemesis of procrastination can play havoc with what we say we value and what we do. Enjoy this oldie-but-goodie video.
Make it a wonderful week and HTRB has needed.
You will find my latest book, Roxie Looks for Purpose Beyond the Biscuit, in
eBook ($2.99) and paperback ($9.99) format. Click here.
My dog Roxie gets top billing on the author page for this work. Without her, there would be no story. Please, check out her blog.
And you can still order:
- Community as a Safe Place to Land (2019, print and e-book). Available on Amazon. More information (including seven free podcast episodes that spotlight the seven core values highlighted in the book) at the above link.
- Stories about Teaching: No Need to be an Island (2017, print and e-book). Available on Amazon. One college’s new faculty onboarding program uses the scenarios in this book. Contact me if you and your team are interested in doing the same. The accompanying videos (see the link above) would serve to stimulate community-building conversations at the beginning of a meeting.
You can find my podcasts (all fifty episodes) here.
You will find more about me at www.stevepiscitelli.com.
©2022. Steve Piscitelli
The Growth and Resilience Network®
Atlantic Beach, Florida